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I'm a cinema manager and had arranged for my assistant to take over for two weeks from the time my wife Denise went into labour. I felt very well organised. Then, on Sunday evening, five weeks before her due date, I was at work and Denise started to get contractions that were coming every 10 minutes. She rang the hospital ad was old an ambulance would be sent to take her in straight away.

My assistant was on holiday in Spain, but fortunately I managed to find temporary help and headed to the hospital myself. When I arrived, Denise was wired up to two monitors - one was checking our baby's heartbeat, the other the contractions, which were regular but week. Denise was making little progress and we were told it didn't seem likely  that our baby would arrive that evening.

Denise was scared and upset - our baby was coming too early. I didn't want to go home and leave her in that state, so the sister said I could stay over and we were given a private room. It felt very peculiar. I hadn't expected to spend a night in a  maternity ward. The time passed so slowly and neither of us could sleep. When, at 8am the next morning, there was still no change I decided to go back to wok to find a relief manager. After hours of ringing around I eventually found help for the following 2 days, but no-one was available immediately. I was frantic. Then the phone rang. It was the hospital. "We've taken her to the labour suite. Get here as soon as possible." Luckily the cinema wasn't due to have a screening until 5pm and I rushed back to the hospital.

When I arrived Denise was in obvious pain but looked more relaxed than me! As the pain got worse she became more and more exhausted. the doctor offered her pethidine and , after one injection, she passed out. I sat with her for a bit, amazed that she was able to sleep through her ever-increasing contractions, but I still had the cinema to sort out. At 4pm I kissed her gently on the cheek before heading off for work again. By now I was beginning to feel really tired too. I hadn't eaten or slept for more than 24 hours. All that kept me going was the fact that Denise would need me to be strong soon.

Back at work the staff suggested that I ask a retired cinema manager who lived nearby to stand in. I was so relieved when he agreed. I gave him the keys and rushed back to the hospital. When I arrived Denise was just waking up and was able to feel the full force of each contraction. I tried to help her breathe, but she was finding it difficult. I was almost shouting at Denise to breathe when she said, "please don't tell me off," in the sweetest , saddest voice I'd ever heard. She was completely drained but still managed to do her best. I felt so useless. Then the doctors decided to speed things up by breaking her waters. I expected a gush. There was a disappointing trickle. It seemed that Denise was all baby inside.

The next three hours dragged on before finally Denise was fully dilated and ready to push. But because she was so tired and in so much pain she lost control. She desperately wanted our baby out and was pushing too quickly. She calmed down though and with a second push the head appeared. After a moment's rest she pushed again and the rest of the baby slipped out.

It was 1.40am on Tuesday when our perfect baby girl Amy was born, weighing in at 6lb 4oz. I hugged Denise as tightly as I could. I was so proud of both of them. It was the most the most stressful, exhausting, exhilarating experience of my life.